As part of Inc.'s inaugural celebration of the Best-Led Companies in the U.S., we asked several dozen honorees which the books that have inspired and informed their leadership strategies. What we got back is a trove of character studies, practical advice, and enduring wisdom. Here are those 32 books, from authors Naomi Klein to Patrick Lencioni to Dilbert creator Scott Adams, that have led dozens of top CEOs to lead greatly.
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
"The book argues that every crisis successfully navigated is an opportunity for the company and leadership to build valuable scar tissue that strengthens the company going forward."
--Vlad Tenev, co-founder and CEO of investing app Robinhood
by Brené Brown
"Without a doubt the most influential book in how I lead. It's a call to action to meticulously remove shame and blame from corporate culture to bring out courage and our best ideas."
--Erica Rogers, CEO of health care company Silk Road Medical
by Norman Vincent Peale
"Positivity and enthusiasm are super powers that any of us can draw upon and I believe that it is the responsibility of leaders, and especially CEOs, to inspire our teams to achieve great things."
--Jerre Stead, CEO of research and intellectual property database Clarivate
4. The Foundation Series
by Isaac Asimov
"There are a great deal of truths in its volumes that I have found are more than applicable to driving a successful business."
--Mark Zagorski, CEO of ad and brand adviser DoubleVerify
by Adam Grant
"It's about understanding who givers are and who takers are; who do you want to be, and how do you want to work with people?"
--Dan Springer, CEO of e-signature firm DocuSign
by Jim Collins
"Good to Great helped me realize I didn't need to have a bigger-than-life personality to be a successful leader and offered approaches to lead in a way that is natural to me."
--Paul J. Hennessy, CEO of online auto marketplace Vroom
by Andrew S. Grove
"While most management books attempt to teach basic leadership competency, High Output Management teaches how to be great."
--Dev Ittycheria, CEO of database platform MongoDB
by Donald Robertson
"As leaders leading in an increasingly complex and challenging world, mastery begins with self and we can learn a surprising amount from the man who once ruled the largest empire in the world."
--Bill Staples, CEO of web software developer New Relic
by Jack Welch with John A. Byrne
"The insights Jack provides will help any aspiring business leader navigate times of change, break through bureaucratic systems, and promote a business culture of results and recognition."
--Rob Bernshteyn, CEO of cost-management platform Coupa
by Yvon Chouinard and Naomi Klein
"They predicted a lot of what the world is talking about now with employee culture. There's the importance of 'path to growth,' individual autonomy, flexibility with work schedules, and trust in management."
--Zander Lurie, CEO of chemical company Momentive
by Melissa Bernstein
"One of the best books, from the founder of the Melissa & Doug toy brand, which goes into the struggle that very creative people go through when building companies."
--Robert LoCascio, founder and CEO of A.I. developer LivePerson
by Michael Lewis
"The Oakland A's, with the lowest salary in baseball, fielded a team that was in contention for the World Series every year. They did so by being iconoclastic, ignoring the industry dogma, and analyzing large amounts of data."
--George Scangos, CEO of Vir Biotechnology
by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer
"This book brings a fresh perspective on how to approach building a company culture that values trust and transparency and empowers employees at all levels."
--Zac Prince, co-founder and CEO of crypto marketplace BlockFi
by Min Jin Lee
"Every character in Pachinko, even a villain, is written about with empathy. It made me wonder how Redfin can treat each employee as an end in herself and not a means to an end, and how much that would increase the dignity of our entire enterprise."
--Glenn Kelman, CEO of online real-estate brokerage Redfin
by Fred Kiel
"Kiel was able to show that high-character leadership not only improves team morale and retainment, but also the bottom line."
--Dean Hager, CEO of Jamf, an Apple device-management company
by Stephen M. R. Covey
"As it says, it is the one thing that changes everything."
--Frank Slootman, CEO of cloud data platform Snowflake
17. Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tzu
"It's a book of Buddhist verses about being a person holistically, but a lot of them point to leadership. Every time I go back to it, I learn something different."
--René Lacerte, founder and CEO of Bill.com, a cloud-based financial software provider
by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, Jim Huling, Scott Thele, and Beverly Walker
"You can't function as a leader if you can't execute. This book provides simple, clear, and effective steps for behavior changes that produce real results."
--Ragy Thomas, founder and CEO of customer experience management platform Sprinklr
by Patrick Lencioni
"The Advantage focuses on organizational health rather than business strategy. The latter is what all CEOs obsess with all day, but the former is what we should be paying more attention to."
--Ali Ghodsi, co-founder and CEO of data analytics platform Databricks
by Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga
"Because I--and I think many leaders--probably have that propensity to want to be liked."
--Patrick Spence, CEO of wireless speaker maker Sonos
by Scott Adams
"The Dilbert Principle provides a satirical, but all too real, view of corporate America. The book is an awesome road map of 'what not to do.'"
--Terry Rosen, CEO of Arcus Biosciences, a biopharmaceutical company
by Peter Drucker
"The Effective Executive is a great resource for how to run a company, and I come back to its lessons again and again."
--Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of file-hosting service Dropbox
by Peter Drucker
"Drucker's advice is timeless, simple, and applicable across industries and roles--preparing readers to lead the companies of tomorrow."
--Charles Giancarlo, CEO of flash storage maker Pure Storage
by Patrick Lencioni
"Perhaps more than ever before, resilient and effective teams are critical for success in business and beyond. The book gives a nuanced look at how leaders can encourage teams to build trust, productively disagree, and achieve meaningful results."
--Frank Calderoni, CEO of SaaS firm Anaplan
by Ben Horowitz
"Building a company is hard, and there are no formulas for success. Ben was very open, frank, and provided practical advice that resonated with me when I was doing a lot of things for the first time."
--Serge Saxonov, co-founder and CEO of biotech firm 10x Genomics
by Clayton Christensen
"I implemented the lessons of disruptive innovation at three successive companies: Paypal, HomeAway, and BigCommerce. Sadly, Clay is no longer with us, but if he were, I'd be thanking him profusely for the teaching that helped me change three industries."
--Brent Bellm, CEO of e-commerce platform BigCommerce
by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
"It's an older book, but it still resonates with me because it takes a very down-to-earth approach to educating young leaders about the importance of consistency in your actions, challenging processes, and enabling your team to succeed."
--David Foss, CEO of Jack Henry & Associates, a financial services payments processor
by William N. Thorndike
"The Outsiders does a great job highlighting CEOs who quietly grew their businesses by being incredible capital allocators and, in turn, tremendously outperformed their peers."
--Henry Schuck, founder and CEO of corporate database ZoomInfo
by Jeffrey Liker
"It explores the core philosophies underlying lean-performance thinking, including the importance of engaging all team members in continuous improvement."
--Amir Dan Rubin, CEO of One Medical, a membership-based primary care practice
by Marc Benioff
"Marc Benioff is a rare leader, and his story details some of the great benefits and potentially challenging obligations that come with prioritizing values and truly living them."
--Charlie Bachtell, co-founder and CEO of Cresco Labs, a medical marijuana company
by L. David Marquet
"It's really a Bible on intent-based leadership, and how you get people to make decisions for themselves."
--Jonathan Johnson, CEO of internet retailer Overstock.com
by Marshall Goldsmith
"As a CEO, your job changes every single year. As a company like Twist, with 750 employees, you need to be thinking about how to lead a company of 5,000."
--Emily Leproust, founder and CEO of Twist Bioscience